October 5, 2004 - Asuncion 197k, 123m**

Two days ago, after checking out the hotel pool in Foz do Iguacu, Eduardo reported that there were lots of chickens around. Dalton was duly concerned and impressed, until he personally checked it out and discovered that there were no good looking females there either. This leads to the joke that ends this update.

We woke at 5 and at 5:30a drove back to the unnamed little roadside town where we quit yesterday after only 40 miles. Charcoal seems to be the primary product for sale along the roadside here, stacked in big dirty sacks, available for US $0.40 per sack.

I wonder how they make it and how dirty it is to burn. (Note the chickens by the side of the road.)

We then rode off to our planned a 7:30a breakfast back at the same Germania Hotel we just left. The hotel had promised meat and cheese, but provided only bread, butter, jelly and coffee, which we supplemented with our own juice, ham and cheese.

Just before we left again, this time on our bikes, Dalton played a little soccer with Mateos, the day clerk’s son. Mateos kicks the ball so hard he falls down.

The theme of the day seems to be the roadside shops in Paraguay. This country may be the poorest per capita around, but everyone seems to have a cottage entrepreneurial bent. We passed a number of small towns with shanty shops built on the dirt by the side of the road. These shops sell everything from food to clothes to bicycles.

The only significant size town between Ciudad del Este and Asuncion (across the entire country) is Colonel Oviedo. It’s at a dusty, dirty round-about intersection of the main N-S and E-W roads in central Paraguay. We originally planned to spend the night here, but after riding through we’re glad we didn’t.

Those flags mark the key intersection. This is looking back east. Riding out of town we passed the block or two of wood products vendors.

There is a row of shanty wood shops behind all these wood products. You can buy cutting boards, furniture of all types, toys, crates and more. You can hear and watch them sawing, pounding and painting in their little shops, all to pile more goods along the road.

I mentioned yesterday all the work animals. Dalton took this picture of a classic ox cart at work.

This main Paraguayan highway west just winds up and down hills, past small farms and a few little villages with dirt streets. In one of them we saw this place. The house, shed in back and outhouse are all made from packing crates. It wins our award for most creative architecture in rural Paraguay.

As the day wore on the temperature rose and we pressed on for the big day to catch up for our dawdling at the Itapu Dam and small riding day yesterday. We were helped for the very first time since leaving the ocean road by Sao Paulo with a couple of stretches of relatively flat road.

This gives you a sense of the scenery too. We also saw, for the first time this trip, an attempt to make a road pretty by lining it with trees. Eduardo chose this spot for one of our brakes. Did I mention the biblically stifling heat?

As we got closer to Asuncion, the mix changed more to ranches, with few cattle. But 36 miles/60 kilometers before Paraguay the terrain returned to the usual series of steep hills. Dalton and I worked on a technique of drafting the trucks as they struggle up them. You don’t get much benefit from the wind reduction, but it puts you in the shade for a few minutes.

The buildings started becoming a bit more substantial. This picture is of Dalton riding though one of the suburbs of Asuncion and of us taking our last break of the day in late afternoon,

As we got to the outskirts of Asuncion things started getting dark and chaotic. We decided it would be better to find our hotel, the Excelsior, in the Fiat. So we loaded our bikes on, and drove the last 15 or 20 kilometers.

By the time we got to the hotel, it was dark and we were tired and beat up from the long riding day. We ate at the large “traditional Paraguayan” restaurant at the hotel which contained only 3 other guests, and saw a “culture show” consisting of 3 musicians/singers and two dancers doing a cross between Flamenco and Mariachi stuff on a small triangular stage in the corner.

Everything here, except the room rate at the hotel ($150 per night) is incredibly inexpensive – about one sixth of what you would expect to pay in the states.

Other notes for the day:
– The main east west road in Paraguay has relatively good shoulders almost all the way (+4 points) but they destroy them with continuous speed bumps (-6 points).
– Dalton got hit up for sex, he’s not sure what specifically but one variety was $50 and the other was $100.
– Dalton’s left Achilles tendon is hurting him, but Tylenol seems to help a lot.
– It’s hot, hot, hot here in October. 97 in the shade, 107 on the pavement.
– Eduardo is getting stopped at the police road checkpoints a lot (Dalton and I ride through and wave as they check out our colorful jerseys and spandex) but has only had to pay a bribe once.
– We brought our mandated (by Paraguay) dead body cover with us, but never had to use it.

THE JOKE

So heading toward Argentina, on one of our breaks, Eduardo told us lightly of the animosity between his country, Brazil, and the Argentinos (as he calls them, they might actually be Argentineans…).

In any case the educational story was about the lamb and the genius. It seems these two guys, an Argentinean and a Brazilian, were walking along the road together, most likely arguing. They came across a lamb. One of them rubbed the lamb and out popped a genius.

The genius says, “I will give you three wishes.” (At this point Dalton notes and immediately points out that it’s a lamp and a genie, which destroys the momentum of an otherwise hilarious joke.) The Argentinean and the Brazilian argue about who rubbed the lamb (I like Eduardo’s version better) and who gets the wishes, or how to split three wishes between two people.

Either way, the genius quickly tires of the bickering and says, “OK, forget it. You each get only one wish.” The Argentinean says he wants to keep all Brazilians out of his country and asks for a wall all around the border big enough to affect this… poof, the wall.

The Brazilian asks if this wall is so big as to keep Brazilians out, will it keep all Argentinos in? The genius says, “of course,” to which the Brazilian replies, “Fill it with water!”

Ha, Ha, Ha. (If you’re in Argentina, reverse the roles when you tell the story.)

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